How to keep kids warm on the slopes
Brrrrr. It’s cold out there! You might think of keeping the kids indoors on chillier days here in the mountains, but if we prepare our kids well they can still have a wonderful day skiing on some of the lightest, fluffiest snow of the season!
Here are some tips for dressing and caring for you kids on the slopes on those colder days:
1) Cover up and dress in layers
Start by dressing your kids with a good under layer shirt or long underwear. Then a nice turtle neck or other technical apparel. A fleece layer or a thin down sweater ( a “puffy”) is a real heat keeper layer on top of that. Next a substantial winter jacket that provides protection from wind and wet weather will top it off. If you don’t have layers of down and wicking technical wear, a good old wool sweater under a good winter jacket is still a great solution for keeping your kids warm.
2) But what about the feet?!
Good question. This is an area where YOU DO NOT WANT LAYERS. You want your child to have nothing but one sock in each boot. Multiple socks and long underwear stuffed inside their ski boots won’t keep them any warmer and only creates potential blisters and discomfort. The key to keeping the feet warm is finding the balance between a nice firm fit for ski boot performance and enough room in the boot for good circulation. Toe Warmers- yes or no? If you can fit them in the boot without making the fit too tight for good circulation they can be a help.
3) Helmets and layers
When it’s cold out a balaclava over the head and inside the helmet can help as a layer for the head and cover up the face. A neck gator also would work well. When it’s really cold, say subzero temperatures, it is important to leave no skin, or very little skin exposed.
4) Mittens or gloves?
Generally mittens are warmer than gloves. Each finger helps keep the others warmer. Down filled mittens are quite effective. The mittens with glove type, sewn- in- liners don’t seem to be very “handy”. The inside glove layer often pulls itself inside- out when your child pulls their hands out of the mitten. Once this has happened it can be tricky to get the inside liner back in order, so your child can easily put the mitten back on. Hand warmers? These do work well. They are inexpensive and usually work for a whole day. The hand warmer in a mitten or glove doesn’t prohibit circulation like a toe warmer can in a boot. Some mittens or gloves have a special pocket for the warmers and those seem effective even though there is a layer between the warmer and your child’s hand. The special pocket feature isn’t necessary to be able to use hand warmers. They are fine just going into the mitten or glove.
5) Taking breaks
When it is very cold out it is a good idea to take an additional break or two inside, than you might on a milder day. The breaks don’t need to be very long, your child will warm up again pretty quickly and you can get right back out on the slopes. Go on into the lodge, open their jackets to let the warm air in, loosen the boot buckles for a few minutes and you’ll all be warmed up and good for another run soon.
It is important that you keep your child hydrated. It is tempting on a cold day to go in for some delicious Hot Chocolate. That’s ok, but have your child drink a good glass of water first, or instead of the hot chocolate. Staying hydrated is key to staying warm.
7) Tactics and Strategies
-If your mountain has a nice gondola to ride rather than a chair lift, you can stay reasonably warm on your way up the hill instead of getting colder.
– If you only have chair lifts servicing the runs you want to ski and you have a choice of a long lift or a short one- take the short one and get moving again sooner.
– Making short turns, and skiing bumps will be more athletic than long straight fast runs and will keep you warmer.
– If wind is a factor see if you can ski in areas that are out of the wind.
-When you stop on the trail, stop in safe sunny spots rather than in shade.
The snow is often best when it’s a bit colder out. All in all, you and your children can still have terrific ski days even when the mercury drops if you dress well, take some breaks, stay hydrated and plan your day accordingly.
Author: Janet Lawrence, of the Vail Ski and Snowboard School. Janet grew up skiing in Upstate New York and came to Vail in 1997. She has been working in the Vail Ski and Snowboard School since, first as an instructor then a Trainer and a Supervisor in the Golden Peak Children’s School. In the off- season she sails and bikes and works with children at an outdoor day camp.